U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: archivalness of gum

Re: archivalness of gum

Hey Judy,

Well, my big bonanza print sale was from a corporate art dealer who was buying artwork for a big new company down here. She really liked the alt process work, which was the majority of what I had to show her-- actually, I think the brush marks really appealed to her -- and she initially told me on the phone that she was interested in only a few pieces. When she got here, though, she ended up commissioning nearly 50 pieces. What can I say? I bombarded her with boxes and boxes of prints. :) I think the reason she wanted me to do them as digital prints, is simply because she purchased so many. Printing them all in some alt process (at the size she wanted, which was fairly large), would have been very expensive, time-consuming, and slow-going. I think she knew the digital prints would be faster (there was a deadline), and certainly less expensive, and she was correct on both those counts. Also, about half were color. (She did ask me, though, if I could recreate those brush marks via the computer. Ahem. I just pretended like I didn't hear that part.)

I agree about gum. I never thought for a minute that gum isn't archival. I was very surprised when the person asked me that question about putting a layer of gum over platinum (this person, who, admittedly, doesn't do alt processes and only prints digitally). My reply was simply that maybe he should ask a painter who specializes in watercolors if he/she thinks their paintings are archival. ?? Still, I had always understood that platinum is the most archival photographic process --whatever that means. I'm also guessing that a print is only as archival as the care that was put into the making of the print, at each step. I mean, platinum may be archival, but if some crucial step was missing (the print wasn't cleared, or cleared improperly?), then archival is relative, I guess. Same with all the other processes. As you say, other factors may impact that, too, including paper and proper storage.

I did print all that work on Hahnemuhle, but haven't tried any of their papers for alt printing yet. I want to, though. The Hahnemuhle I used, specifically for digital printing, was just their Photo Rag Paper, 308 gsm (which is available several places, including B&H). I used the 17x22 size and was really pleased with the results. The paper has enough of a texture that the image doesn't simply lay (lie?) there, looking flat on the paper, like I see with so many digital prints; while the resulting print is still smooth, the paper has a slight texture that gives some additional depth, or lift, or something, to the image/print. It's also fairly heavy, which I liked. It really printed beautifully. I especially liked what it did with b&w prints.


On Dec 20, 2007, at 12:59 PM, Judy Seigel wrote:

I absolutely REFUSE to comment in response to some asshole "curator" who decides gum can't do fine detai.... oh that's a different one, I meant to say isn't archival...

And Diana... you had a print buyer who insisted on inkjet pigment prints... which I found fascinating. Did you get any idea why? (Whichever, congratulations on the sale !) Do you suppose even from the most archival printer they're more archival than gum?

And just what is it about gum that's supposed to be non archival -- as if it matters. I myself think that folks who assume there's going to be a civilisation on this old globe in 200 years that's capable of caring whether a print in some flooded, bombed, or otherwise relic "museum" has faded from its presumed pristine state... hasn't got enough in their head to stuff a strudel.

Of course archivality is also a factor of the storage, the frame, the paper, and so forth... but good grief, that's the kind of preciosity gives me a pain in the brain... This from the culture that lionizes graffiti done with spray paints on crumbling masonry... cherishes singed posters and fragmented documents, but frets that a gum print may not be perfectly archival... (to NO evidence, in fact against all evidence, if it matters).

Why? That's a no brainer -- because they know diddle about photography and double diddle about its history and triple diddle about why it could even be art. That is, they have no idea about photography being actual art. But they can understand in their little pea brains about "archival" --- they've probably never SEEN a gum print older than 30 years... but they feel free to sound off...

I suppose I should apologize for being, um, so outspoken -- but that "curator" should apologize: This argument about archivality is an insult to photography. Some of the most important prints and drawings not to mention paintings in the Western canon (not to mention tribal art) are melting, yellowing, crumbling, etc. before our eyes... And when the Italians, Greeks and Egyptians demand the Getty give their broken & cracked sculptures back, they don't worry about archival..

Why? Because they KNOW that's art. (Sublime, in fact.) But they don't know that photography... even a platinum print (though the total platinum would sell for more on e-bay then their own chemical constituents) is judged by its archivality. Tell them to, um, and go look at some old prints, like the yellowed and fading Rembrandts of holy awe.

PS. Diana -- you mentioned that you printed your "collection" on Hahnemuhl -- which one? I've done a lot of gums on Hahnemuhl & find it one of the best, but would love to try one that will also print in a printer, in case I haven't.

And also, by the way, gum over platinum is an historic process -- if memory serves (which I can't promise, MEMORY is NOT archival) Paul Anderson (heh heh) did it, but also I think Heinrich Kuhn, among others. I believe it was fairly well known... Then again there were many kinds of "platinum" including a commercial "platinum paper" -- who was the Englishman who swore he'd stop photographing when that paper was discontinued? He had the same name as a photo historian or other pioneer, but ... as noted, this memory is not archival.

meanwhile, best to all...

non-archival Judy

Hey Chris-- Isn't platinum the most archival process? At least, that's what I always tell people. I'm sure I read that somewhere. I did have someone ask me an interesting question recently that I never thought to ask anybody-- but I had made a gum over platinum print, and this person suggested that by using gum over the platinum, I was harming the platinum in some way-- or, at least, somehow removing the archival nature of the platinum, since-- this person said-- gum isn't archival. I think this person was only *assuming* that gum isn't archival-- really didn't know for sure-- but I thought it was an interesting question.

On Dec 20, 2007, at 10:30 AM, Christina Z. Anderson wrote:

Good morning all!
This may be a question for Gawain Weaver as I don't know who else on the list is "in the know".
I have always read/thought/been told that gum along with carbon is the most archival process there is.
I heard a comment the other day from a museum curator who said it was "not the most archival process".
Now, I know that certain pigments used in the past were NOT lightfast. Gamboge, alizarin crimson, etc. were pigments that faded thru time we now know and the watercolor painters know, too. Also, I know that if you leave the dichromate stain in as a darker brown addition underneath the gum layer, through time in sunlight that image will fade to gossamer green and therefore the print will lighten **somewhat** (found a cute little article on that fact about gum prints "fading on the walls of exhibitions"). But if using archival pigments and also taking into account the slight tone difference of an added dichromate stain now that we are not cooking our prints with heavy 100% sodium dichromates, etc.,, aren't gum prints really archival?? Anyone have gum prints that have not lasted? I've seen Kuehn's and Demachy's but unfortunately, photography is a relatively new art and thus we only have about 170 years of evidence.
Unfortunately, I left my only conservation book (thanks, Gawain) at home and I am in FL for 3 wk--writing my gum book at least!
Christina Z. Anderson
Assistant Professor
Photo Option Coordinator
Montana State University
Box 173350
Bozeman, MT 59717